One of the most inspiring moments at Sunday night's Academy Awards ceremony occurred utterly offstage. After Frances McDormand's rousing acceptance speech, her fellow nominees gathered into one big bear hug. Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Meryl Streep, and Sally Hawkins all huddled together and — ideally, in our mind — plotted the destruction of the status quo. ("Ride on, inclusion rider!" Streep might have yelled, brandishing a fist.)
McDormand's speech was not just one of thanks; it was a call to action more than anything else. She asked all the female nominees from the evening to stand, then asked the financiers in the audience to start offering their services.
"Look around, everyone, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed," she said. "Invite us into your office in a couple days. Or you can come to ours." She then left the audience with two words: "inclusion rider." An inclusion rider is a contract stipulation that enforces diversity and inclusion. According to the New York Times, inclusion riders trace back to a Ted Talk performed by Stacy Smith about inclusion in Hollywood. Smith, the founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, explained in the talk that A-listers — celebrities like Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, or really anyone who's been nominated for an Oscar — should be able to request that their films reflect the diversity of the nation both on and of camera.
"An equity rider by an A-lister in their contract can stipulate that those roles reflect the world in which we actually live. Now, there's no reason why a network, a studio or a production company cannot adopt the same contractual language in their negotiation processes," Smith said.
The little best actress huddle is only the beginning. Hugs now, inclusion riders later. And more great movies! Maybe next year's huddle can include Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph? Just a thought.
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